Winter in the Sierra Nevadas
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by Frank Shortt
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The Sierra Nevada Mountain range lies between the Central Valley of California and the Basin and Range Province.
Sierra Nevada in Spanish means Snowy Range. In winter, these mountains are just that. Snow also lies on the upper peaks all year long, even in the hottest summers.
Winter in the Sierra Nevada range is very unpredictable. Balmy winds will blow one minute, then, next minute an Arctic blast will chill you to the bone. Hunters who have hunted these ranges in the past have been amazed to arise to a beautiful sunrise, get all their gear together in preparation to hunt, then, be totally disappointed as blinding snow begins to fall. Many hunters, not knowing the fickle weather patterns of the Sierras, become lost as landmarks become obscure while storms rage.
If you plan a winter outing in the Sierras, always take along clothes fitted for the present weather, but also, warm clothing just in case the weather acts up. Walking shoes, as well as, insulated boots are highly recommended. The first part of the body to be affected by cold is the top of the head and the bottom of the feet. If one can keep these two areas covered properly, half the battle of chilling is won.
Falling snow, to a novice, is beautiful! Sprite-like, those not familiar with the dangers of snow piling up, will dart around, catching snowflakes in their mouths. Sudden snow in the Sierras can accumulate at a very fast pace. More than a foot of snow can fall in less than an hour. Our first thought is, “We should have brought the four-wheel-drive!” Suddenly, a beautiful vista becomes a fatal attraction.
The safest way to enjoy Sierra snow is from the inside looking out. Make sure your heating supply is ample, your food cupboard is stocked, and you have plenty of reading material handy. Some folks living up high have been without electrical power for as much as a week. Buckets and pans filled with snow became their only refrigerant! Melted snow became their bath water, heated on the wood stove. This melted snow also became water to flush the toilets! You say, “Aw, that was in the olden days!” No, this is any winter in the Sierra Nevadas!
This article might be of special interest to immigrants that are not familiar with snow. Some countries do not ever have snow. If you are one of these people, make sure you read all you can about snow and its effect on humans before venturing out into the wilderness areas of the Sierras in winter. A little research will allow you to enjoy the wonders of the winter wonderlands without the hazards of perishing by cold, or better known as, hypothermia. Some symptoms are:
· Shivering, although as hypothermia worsens, shivering stops.
· Clumsiness or lack of coordination.
· Slurred speech or mumbling.
· Confusion and poor decision-making, such as trying to remove warm clothes.
· Drowsiness or very low energy.
Nature was created to be enjoyed, but must be approached carefully, respectfully, and knowledgeably. When all these things are observed, “Have a wonderful outing!”